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Heart Of The Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain

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Winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize 1985. This book records what life is like for the Black women in Britain: grandmothers drawn to the promise of the 'mother country' in the 1950s talk of a different reality; young girls describe how their aspirations at school are largely ignored; working women tell of their commitments to families, jobs, communities. Along w Winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize 1985. This book records what life is like for the Black women in Britain: grandmothers drawn to the promise of the 'mother country' in the 1950s talk of a different reality; young girls describe how their aspirations at school are largely ignored; working women tell of their commitments to families, jobs, communities. Along with stories of struggles here is Black women's celebration of their culture and their struggle to create a new social order in this country.


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Winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize 1985. This book records what life is like for the Black women in Britain: grandmothers drawn to the promise of the 'mother country' in the 1950s talk of a different reality; young girls describe how their aspirations at school are largely ignored; working women tell of their commitments to families, jobs, communities. Along w Winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize 1985. This book records what life is like for the Black women in Britain: grandmothers drawn to the promise of the 'mother country' in the 1950s talk of a different reality; young girls describe how their aspirations at school are largely ignored; working women tell of their commitments to families, jobs, communities. Along with stories of struggles here is Black women's celebration of their culture and their struggle to create a new social order in this country.

30 review for Heart Of The Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain

  1. 5 out of 5

    womanist bibliophile

    Two things are most striking to me about the way this book is written. The original edition was published in 1985, yet so many passages could have been written today, the circumstances described are so similar to those of 2019: economic recession, chronic underfunding of social services, lack of decent affordable housing, disproportionate unemployment and underemployment, low wages, low educational expectations and provision, hostile immigration policy, etc, in short “austerity” measures aimed a Two things are most striking to me about the way this book is written. The original edition was published in 1985, yet so many passages could have been written today, the circumstances described are so similar to those of 2019: economic recession, chronic underfunding of social services, lack of decent affordable housing, disproportionate unemployment and underemployment, low wages, low educational expectations and provision, hostile immigration policy, etc, in short “austerity” measures aimed at the Otherised population whose people, ancestors, work, were exploited for the very wealth accumulation that has become synonymous with white majority countries—and then are blamed for the limited reach in distribution of that wealth. The second is the use of the words we/us/ours to refer to Black women in britain and the Caribbean; this is us, we are centred here, our lives and our contributions are the focus. And this, I realise, is an unusual experience for me. How many books I have read where “we” referred to the white men who were the presumed reader, the default subject, despite his exploits and antics not being mine in any sense. I’m grateful that this new edition has been published, without it I might not have heard about a book which is a valuable resource and essential reading for Black women in britain.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Arrianne

    Originally written in the 80s, with an updated interview with the authors at the end, a lot of this feels like it could have been written yesterday. Offers a brilliant insight into the experience of Black women in Britain, backed up by personal experiences, with an educated description of the history. Also good analysis of the conflict between the Black women’s movement and other movements, like Black movements in general and white feminism. I also think I learned more about the history of Afric Originally written in the 80s, with an updated interview with the authors at the end, a lot of this feels like it could have been written yesterday. Offers a brilliant insight into the experience of Black women in Britain, backed up by personal experiences, with an educated description of the history. Also good analysis of the conflict between the Black women’s movement and other movements, like Black movements in general and white feminism. I also think I learned more about the history of Africa and slavery reading the introduction to this than I ever learned in the 35 years before I read this book, and certainly more than I was ever taught in school. One criticism that I had which was brushed over in the interview at the end was a lack of LGBTQ+ representation — I noticed its absence in the text and in the interview the authors mentioned that this had been a criticism previously levelled at them (that they excluded black lesbians and were not LGBTQ+ friendly) but basically dismissed it as being not true without backing it up. It was all a bit “didn’t happen”, or “we didn’t have time for that, they could have just organised stuff themselves”.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This was a difficult, but necessary read. Difficult in terms of the subject matter, and feeling the shame of having been born and lived most of my life in a country that has consistently excluded black women from society and subjected them to horrific racial abuse and oppression, whilst relying so heavily on their underpaid labour. Despite the weighty subject matter, this book is familiar and friendly in tone - I was expecting it to be quite a densely academic read, but it fact the writers had d This was a difficult, but necessary read. Difficult in terms of the subject matter, and feeling the shame of having been born and lived most of my life in a country that has consistently excluded black women from society and subjected them to horrific racial abuse and oppression, whilst relying so heavily on their underpaid labour. Despite the weighty subject matter, this book is familiar and friendly in tone - I was expecting it to be quite a densely academic read, but it fact the writers had decided to place it all in the first person plural, using the collective 'we'. This made it an incredibly personal and affective read; further reinforced by the inclusion of engrossing personal histories which are woven into the narrative. Overall, it had a mesmerising, galvanising effect that lingers long after closing the book. The ignorance and prejudice of so much of the country (this book mainly covers the 70s and 80s in the UK) at that time was (and still is) staggering - the eyewitness accounts were harrowing and very effectively showed how racism is enacted on both a personal and institutional level, and the effects this has on individuals. I particularly enjoyed the 'Black Women Organising' section of this book; it was fascinating for me to learn more about the work of OWAAD (Organisation for Women of African and Asian Descent), the pardner scheme and the individual efforts of Olive Morris and Claudia Jones. The scope of the book is wide - covering such topics as education, housing, organising, healthcare, housing, policing, spirituality, language, mothering...it was deeply upsetting and disappointing to see that pretty much all of the issues discussed in this book are still very relevant today. We are nowhere near the post-racial, post-feminist world that we long for, and the struggle continues. This book was truly a collective, collaborative effort, the use of the collective 'we' was an homage to the oral tradition of passing down knowledge in African and Caribbean culture, and a way of personally claiming their own history - a history that has so often been left out of history books. It demonstrates the powers of unity, affiliation, creativity and collective strength in a way that is awe-inspiring and motivating.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    An essential oral history of Black feminism in the UK.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Imogen

    Fascinating book which brilliantly switches between factual passages and real stories of black British women. Most of the topics covered are still so relevant, it’s hard to believe it was written over 30 years ago.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liv

    The Heart of Race was initially published in 1985 and Verso re-released it in 2018 with a new Foreward and Afterwords to bring context to the work of these women in the 21st Century. It highlights how systemic racism has been and continues to be a problem in the UK. The work focuses on the Black women that came across in the 1950s and 1960s from the Caribbean, when all of the West Indies (as they were known then) under British rule were deemed British citizens and could freely come to Britain. ⠀⠀ The Heart of Race was initially published in 1985 and Verso re-released it in 2018 with a new Foreward and Afterwords to bring context to the work of these women in the 21st Century. It highlights how systemic racism has been and continues to be a problem in the UK. The work focuses on the Black women that came across in the 1950s and 1960s from the Caribbean, when all of the West Indies (as they were known then) under British rule were deemed British citizens and could freely come to Britain. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ "The mainstay of British culture has been the assertion of its superiority over others, it's total negation of non-European cultures in general and Black people's cultures in particular." ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The book has an initially academic set-up with chapter one, but then quickly falls into a much easier narrative that combines women's voices and facts. The book splits into 5 chapters focusing on; Black Women and Work, Education, Health and Welfare Services, Black Women's Organisation and Black women's understanding of their culture and identity. This split offered a cohesive and thorough examination of core needs of women and people and how Black women suffered unnecessarily because of gender and race in Britain. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I think the book really benefited from the stories from various women that were included (who remained anonymous to protect their identity). There was lots of great poetry excerpts (and I'm not a poetry fan generally but I enjoyed these). One personal favourite was from Louise Bennett Jamaica 'Oman. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This book was an excellent introduction to British racism and the problems Black British women have faced and continue to face. I bought this e-book last month, but the e-book is currently free on Verso, they just ask you to donate the amount to a relevant cause.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This book was written before I was born and I found it sad that I could still relate to the experiences black women faced then. What's more positive is that black women of my generation are continuing the fight, only possible because books like these have helped us to better understand, be assured and be confident in our identity. One thing this book also highlighted is what we’ve been saying that black people are not a homogeneous group. As an African black British woman, I struggled at times t This book was written before I was born and I found it sad that I could still relate to the experiences black women faced then. What's more positive is that black women of my generation are continuing the fight, only possible because books like these have helped us to better understand, be assured and be confident in our identity. One thing this book also highlighted is what we’ve been saying that black people are not a homogeneous group. As an African black British woman, I struggled at times to relate to some of the experiences specific to Caribbean women, which this book focuses on. Overall, a very insightful and enjoyable book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Del

    An essential account of the struggles faced by the Windrush generation, and black women in particular, and the vital role they played in rebuilding post-war Britain. An unflinching analysis of black history in colonial and post-colonial Britain, the astonishing levels of institutional racism, and the fight for acceptance and equality. This book should be essential reading for anyone who believes black people have no place in Britain.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alfie Hancox

    Brilliantly written, comprehensive and (unfortunately) still highly relevant

  10. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This book covered how black women experienced the various facets of life and society in Britain and how in each of these, they experienced racism, sexism, and classism. Despite it being written in 1985, it still feels completely relevant today. This edition included an afterword which showed how life has changed (or not) in Britain for black women. The afterword was a really insightful reflection on the previous 30 years and the modern day. Often with academic texts, the writing can be completel This book covered how black women experienced the various facets of life and society in Britain and how in each of these, they experienced racism, sexism, and classism. Despite it being written in 1985, it still feels completely relevant today. This edition included an afterword which showed how life has changed (or not) in Britain for black women. The afterword was a really insightful reflection on the previous 30 years and the modern day. Often with academic texts, the writing can be completely inaccessible and difficult to read, however with this book this was not the case; the writing style meant that the book was easy to follow despite it being information-heavy. Another positive of this book was the inclusion of first-hand, lived experiences by various black women in the UK.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Le Sedi

    I was hoping to read about both the African and Afro-Caribbean perspectives on living and working in the UK but the book focused mostly on the Afro-Caribbean POV. Nonetheless this was an interesting and informative book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jen Finn

    Fascinating. Eye opening. Difficult to read but that’s just the nature of most academic texts really! Worth it though.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Geraldine

    Really glad this has been reissued. A really informative and useful book which doesn't flinch from addressing complexities. Really glad this has been reissued. A really informative and useful book which doesn't flinch from addressing complexities.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lilli

    A must-read

  15. 5 out of 5

    Miss Laverne Edward

    Very interesting and informative. Made me question my own experience of culture and explained the origins of certain organisations. It increases the value of history and how it is passed down to future generations.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

  17. 4 out of 5

    Camille Alexander

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andreea

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Rosso

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maria

  21. 5 out of 5

    Onyishi Uju

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Borland

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kannee

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adele Walton

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rod Stasick

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  28. 5 out of 5

    AlessandraB

  29. 4 out of 5

    Fionntán

  30. 5 out of 5

    S E MORTON

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